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FLEXING MUSCLE

The big chill

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FLEXING MUSCLE : Not only are Danish diplomats banned from the corridors of power, the government doesn't entertain economic or business proposals from Denmark

An 18-year-old terrorism case has cast a lengthy shadow on relations with Denmark.

Another Danish National Day went by on April 16 without an official Indian presence as the Manmohan Singh government continued its boycott of Denmark's diplomatic mission in New Delhi. Ambassador Freddy Svarne stood alone between the flags of the two countries as the national anthems played. Certainly, diplomats here do not recall this kind of snub to any country. Through all the lows in India's relations with Pakistan, even when the bilateral dialogue stood suspended, successive governments have always sent a representative, lowly or otherwise, to that country's national day celebrations.

It is extraordinary that an 18-yearold terrorism case has cast a lengthy shadow on relations with a country that can by no stretch of imagination be considered hostile. Yet, ever since Denmark failed in 2010 to facilitate the extradition of Kim Davy, prime accused in the infamous Purulia arms drop case of 1995, the government has steadily downgraded its dealings with that country. In fact, last year, it went so far as to issue an official circular forbidding all government departments to meet or entertain any Danish diplomat posted in India. "The Danes are being treated almost like pariahs, " commented a former Indian foreign service official who did not wish to be named.

The strain is telling. Not only are Danish diplomats banned from the corridors of power on Raisina Hill, the government consistently refuses to entertain economic or business proposals from Denmark that requires official clearance. Private trade goes on as usual, as do cultural and people-topeople ties. But officialdom has slammed the door on Denmark till Davy is sent here to face the trial he managed to escape.

Diplomatic circles here are surprised that India has chosen to up the ante to such unprecedented levels over a mere extradition. But there is more to the government's pique than meets the eye.

The Purulia arms drop case remains shrouded in mystery even today and Davy could be the key to unraveling it. He has already leveled allegations of the involvement of RAW and Indian intelligence agencies in facilitating the sensational midnight flight of a Latvian aircraft that dropped hundreds of AK-47 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition in West Bengal's Purulia district. He has suggested that Indian politicians who were important at that time knew about the incident. Since the arms drop happened during the tenure of the Narasimha Rao government, Davy would seem to be pointing a finger at some Congress politicians. There are also reports that Davy had connections with elements of the ISI.

Although a Kolkata court concluded that the intended recipients of the arms were the Ananda Marga group, suspicions persist that it was part of a plot to destabilize the ruling Left Front government in Bengal and impose President's Rule. Certainly, Left leaders harbour this belief and have been demanding for a long time that Davy be brought back to India and the case be investigated thoroughly.

All in all, it's a murky story and Davy ruffled feathers here with an explosive interview to Times Now in 2011 which was peppered with references to RAW, British intelligence and lots of cloak and dagger stuff.
Of course, he may have been spinning a yarn to block his extradition but with all kinds of allegations swirling around, the Congress is getting antsy. "We want to find out what Davy knows about the case. That's why we want him extradited to India, " said a senior government minister. Left leader Nilotpal Basu too conceded that the government's interest was to clear the air about the arms drop.

Although Denmark is believed to have agreed in 2008 to send Davy back, it failed to win the case, both in the lower court as well as a higher court. In fact, both courts seemed to be sympathetic to Davy's plea that he would be tortured and subjected to inhuman treatment if he was sent back to Delhi. "It smacks of racism, " an angry home ministry official said.

The government has been applying pressure on the Danish authorities to file an appeal in their Supreme Court but Denmark has thrown up its hands. Its contention is that their prosecutor is an independent office and cannot be influenced or coerced by the government. Last month, a Danish team flew in to try and work out a compromise with India but the talks didn't make much headway. And so the matter rests, unresolved.

It's a trying time for Danish diplomats here. But the government is unrelenting. Having tasted success with Italy over the marines, it is determined to continue its coercive diplomacy with Denmark till Davy comes here to face trial.

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